Cause I Sez So

New York Dolls

The reunion of the New York Dolls has been one of moderate success and speculation. It’s perfectly legitimate for David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain, the band’s two remaining original members, to keep the name alive. After all, it was these same two who carried the New York Dolls torch into the late 70s (and have maintained a working relationship ever since), while other members who’d been through the ranks withered away, fell on hard times or died. A reunion with the late bassist Arthur Kane at the Meltdown Festival in 2004 reactivated a demand for the New York Dolls’ sloppy, elegant brand of punk rock, and the heat was on.

Kane’s untimely passing (only 22 days after the reunion concert) of leukemia threatened to put everything on permanent hold. Johansen and Sylvain, however, opted to continue with new members on board and recorded 2006’s One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This. Now, with Todd Rundgren, who produced the band’s 1973 self-titled debut, manning the controls for the second New York Dolls studio album of the century, Cause I Sez So shows the band is ready to play for keeps.

A brigade of snarling guitars and Johansen’s haggard voice launches the title track and the record into a dirty abyss filled with possibilities. Insipid, three-chord is supposed to be this fun, but even a prune face like Johansen can get away with thumbing his nose at authority. “Muddy Bones” continues the slam before “Better Than You” falls into a sanctified groove and evolves — unimaginable back in the day. “My World” has the makings of an epic departure, and will probably become a live staple as the band continues to tally up frequent flyer miles. Guitarist Steve Conte locks in easily with Sylvain, and bassist Sami Yaffa and drummer Brian Delaney have a confident grip on the engine room. Conte and Yaffa also wrote the music for “Temptation To Exist,” which builds on a Sergio Leone motif, unleashing yet another unseen side of the Dolls’ spruced up musical sense.

“Working Rain” and “Drowning” are novel attempts to texturize the group’s broad inroads. Maybe this is what they’ve been wanting to do all along. But then they dovetail into “Nobody Got No Bizness” and Johansen’s Buster Poindexter rears its funky derrière. So why not trash the classic “Trash” and turn it into a reggae filled bucket of relish? Apparently, recording the album at Rundgren’s studio in Hawaii started to affect the music in odd ways.

Then “Exorcism Of Despair” creeps in and the New York Dolls are catapulted back to 1973, without the lipstick, rouge and stockings. A balance of variation keeps the pace Cause I Sez So exciting and unpredictable, but it’s really the New York Dolls attitude, as tarred, feathered and antiquated as it may seem, that makes thei record required listening for anyone who thinks rock and roll can’t get a facelift and thrive in the modern world. Who sez so?

~ Shawn Perry

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